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Federal manhunt underway for man who was former Gov. Larry Hogan's chief of staff

Manhunt for former governor's ex staffer
Manhunt underway for former Maryland governor's ex-chief of staff 04:13

A federal manhunt is underway for Roy McGrath, once the chief of staff to ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, after he failed to appear in court Monday for the first day of his trial on wire fraud and embezzlement charges. FBI and U.S. Marshals are both working on the search, according to a law enforcement official.

The U.S. Marshals Service launched an interstate fugitive search after a federal judge issued a warrant for McGrath's arrest. McGrath's face is plastered on a U.S. Marshals poster, which highlights charges against him for wire fraud, theft in programs receiving federal funds and falsification of records in federal investigations. 

Roy McGrath, who briefly served as chief of staff to former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, is wanted on wire fraud and embezzlement charges. Pamela Wood/The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

McGrath had surrendered his passport after his arrest, according to the Marshals, making it more difficult for him to try to leave the country. The Marshals say that they have no indications at this point that McGrath has tried to harm himself, and they are operating under the assumption he remains at large.

A law enforcement source tells CBS News that McGrath's family was at his home in Florida when FBI visited the house Tuesday morning. The source said his high profile and the widely circulating photos will make it difficult for him to remain at large.  

According to the Associated Press, McGrath's home was raided by FBI agents Wednesday, while his wife, Laura Bruner, was there. His attorney, Joseph Murtha, told the AP that Bruner, who is cooperating with law enforcement authorities, "seemed upset and bewildered" while the search was taking place. Murtha also said that he had spoken with McGrath on Sunday evening about the case, and McGrath was scheduled to fly from Naples to Maryland for the trial that night. "This behavior is so out of the ordinary for him," he told the AP.

 McGrath's neighbor captured the FBI search on video and posted it on his website Naples News Now

Federal search at fugitive and former Larry Hogan chief of staff Roy McGrath's home, March 2023.

McGrath was scheduled to appear in federal court in Baltimore on charges related to his tenure running the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), which provides Maryland residents with services including wastewater management, composting and recycling services. He joined Hogan's office as chief of staff in 2020 after having served as MES executive director for about three years. Before that, McGrath was Hogan's deputy chief of staff.

Roy C. McGrath Wanted poster. U.S. Marshals

The prospective jurors for McGrath's fraud trial have been sent home; no jury was selected. The Justice Department expects McGrath's trial will have to be re-scheduled, and a new jury pool will likely be needed. If McGrath is captured, the Justice Department is likely to seek pretrial detention, due to his obvious status as a "flight risk," a law enforcement official said. 

The 2021 indictment against McGrath says he sought to enrich himself personally by using his position as executive director of the agency and his role as chief of staff to the governor to engineer a payment from the agency he shouldn't have received. Prosecutors also allege that McGrath falsified his time sheets while he took a vacation to Europe and that he stole money for classes at Harvard. McGrath resigned from Hogan's office weeks after assuming the chief-of-staff job after an investigation found he wasn't forthcoming about the $230,000 severance package he had received for leaving the quasi-government agency, according to court filings. 

A superseding indictment last year alleges that McGrath also falsified a document that "falsely purported to be a memorandum to the Governor of Maryland, referenced a salary of $233,647.23, and a severance package from MES." The document "created the illusion that the Governor had seen and approved the memorandum" and was backdated to May 18, 2020, a Justice Department filing noted — the date McGrath interviewed for the chief of staff job.

If captured, tried and convicted of the federal charges against him, McGrath could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each of the five counts of wire fraud, as well as a maximum of 10 years for each of two counts of embezzlement and a maximum of 20 years for falsifying a document, according to the superseding indictment

McGrath, 53, was supposed to travel to Maryland for the trial, according to court records. It's possible Hogan, who was governor from 2015-2023 could testify in the trial. He has denied knowing about or approving McGrath's severance payment. McGrath has pleaded not guilty on all charges. 

Murtha said he doesn't know where his client is. 

"Unfortunately, I have no idea of Roys's whereabouts," Murtha said. "I hope that he is safe, and that we will soon have an opportunity to speak with one another."

Murtha told CBS Baltimore's WJZ on Tuesday he has yet to hear from his client. He confirmed McGrath's wife spoke to law enforcement at the couple's home in Naples, Florida. And he said she is cooperating with the investigation and has no idea of her husband's whereabouts. 

— Rob Legare, Scott McFarlane and Matthew Mosk contributed to this report. 

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